IU Insider Blog: First Big Ten win?

A tough four-game stretch to open Big Ten play is now half way done and the Hoosiers are 0-2. A road game with Penn State and a home game with unbeaten Wisconsin are the next two up. The big question: When will IU pick up its first Big Ten victory?

When the Big Ten announced its 2014 men's basketball conference schedule a few months ago, Indiana fans quickly took notice of how difficult the first four games of the Big Ten season potentially could be.

Road games with Illinois and Penn State along with home contests with Michigan State and Wisconsin didn't look particularly promising. What we didn't know then was that both Michigan State and Wisconsin would be ranked in the top five in the nation.

But I think most people thought the best case scenario for the Hoosiers would be a 2-2 record which would have likely meant road victories over both the Illini and Nittany Lions. Thinking that IU would have a reasonable shot against either the Spartans or Badgers at home would likely require a perfect game.

Now that Indiana is 0-2 in the Big Ten, though, and a coming off a 17-point loss to Michigan State Saturday at Assembly Hall, the big question has turned to just when WILL the Hoosiers log that first Big Ten victory?

Will it be on Saturday at Penn State, a venue where Michigan State had all kinds of trouble just a week ago before rallying for a 13-point win?

Will it be Wisconsin on Jan. 14 at Assembly Hall? The Badgers are still unbeaten on the season.

Will it be a week from Saturday, also at Assembly Hall, against Northwestern?

Or will it be one of the games after that one?

It's a tough question made even more difficult by the fact that consistency is not a particular strong suit of this young Indiana basketball team.

The craziest thing about it though is that let's say that IU does go to Happy Valley this weekend and come away with a victory over Penn State and then goes home and loses to Wisconsin the following Tuesday. The Hoosiers would be 1-3 and IU fans would be predictably nervous.

But you could make a pretty strong case that over the next four games, Indiana could just as easily flip the results and go 3-1 to even its record at 4-4 in conference play.

After that first four game stretch, IU plays Northwestern at home, travels to Michigan State, but then has a home game with Illinois and a road contest at Nebraska.

I'm not saying that Indiana will win three of those four but I think there's a good chance the Hoosiers would be favored in three of those four games.

The danger here is looking beyond the next game at hand. I don't care how dominant Indiana has been against Penn State in recent years, none of that is going to matter when they play Jan. 11 in the Bryce Jordan Center.

IU has won five games in a row against Penn State including two in State College. Last year IU won both games by 23 points. But that was a much different Indiana basketball team.

This year's Penn State group is 9-6 overall and 0-2 in Big Ten play. It will have a home game this week against Minnesota before facing the Hoosiers on Saturday. IU is off all week before heading to State College for the Saturday 12 p.m. tip.

The Nittany Lions have lost to Michigan State by 13 and at Illinois by 20 in their two conference games. So what that means is that it will be two hungry teams that face each other Saturday afternoon. And Indiana will still be looking for its first true road victory of the season.

If I had to guess, I would think Indiana would beat Penn State Saturday but then struggle at home against Wisconsin. I would think 1-3 right now would be about right.

But I also think 4-4 is within reach if the Hoosiers can grab that first Big Ten victory on Saturday.

So take a deep breath Hoosier fans. Step back off the ledge after that 0-2 Big Ten start and just hope the Hoosiers put together a strong effort Saturday in State College.

It's amazing how different things can look and feel if you can just get that first conference win under your belt.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch


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